Sister Phyllis O’Toole
Current Location – Maryknoll Sisters Center, NY
Phyllis O’Toole was born April 10, 1936 in St. Paul, MN to Aileen (O’Heron) and Phil O’Toole. She was an only child. Phyllis graduated from St. Josephs Academy High School in St. Paul in 1954. She also attended St. Catherine’s College (now St. Catherine’s University) prior to entering Maryknoll.
In her youth, Phyllis O’Toole, a sports fan, tried out for the Fort Wayne Daisies, an Indiana-based team in the U.S. women’s baseball league! After hearing a Maryknoll missioner speak at her high school, St.Joseph’s Academy in St. Paul, MN, she found something she liked even better than sports. She discovered the Maryknoll Sisters.
Phyllis entered the Maryknoll Sisters September 2, 1956 at their Center in NY. She professed First Vows June 24, 1959 at the Center and Final Vows June 24, 1965 also at the Center. Her first assignment was to study at Rogers College, Maryknoll, NY where she earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1963.
Sister Phyllis’ first overseas mission assignment was to Cochabamba, Bolivia where she accompanied the poor, animated Basic Christian Communities and taught in primary school from 1963 to ’64.
Each experience, including one which also involved caring for her mother in St. Paul for 16 years, led her to deepen her relationship with God and find unique ways to make God’s love visible wherever she was. Even while caring for her mother, she served as Director of Religious Education in two local parishes and earned a Certificate in catechetics and pastoral ministry from Connecticut Valley Hospital, Middletown, CT. in 1970. In 1972 she earned two masters degrees, one in social work from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN in 1972 and a masters in Art-Religious education from St. Thomas College, St. Paul in 1982. Her solidarity with Central America at that time was deeply appreciated by her Maryknoll Sisters there.
Sister Phyllis spent 10 years in Thailand, serving in pastoral ministry and at the Santi Wana (“Peaceful Forest”) Ashram, a center of reflection and contemplation on the outskirts of Bangkok. There, she and another member of the Maryknoll Sisters Contemplative Community, along with a Jesuit priest and a Thai couple who served as caretakers, lived a contemplative prayer presence in an ecological spirituality project for sustainable living.
Later Sister Phyllis found great joy in serving meals to the homeless and other needy people at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen in Los Angeles, as well as assisting in various other ways at the Maryknoll Sisters Convent in Monrovia, CA.
Prior to arriving in Monrovia in 2010, Sister Phyllis accompanied the poor, animated Basic Christian Communities and taught in Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador and did pastoral ministry in Cambodia and Thailand. In addition, she spent two years as a member of the Maryknoll Sisters Cloister.
Sister Phyllis also spent four years giving church appeals in the United States aimed at garnering support for Maryknoll Sisters missions around the world.